Arsenal CEO says he is “absolutely convinced” there will be openly gay footballers in the near future.

Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis says he is “absolutely convinced that in five years time we will have openly gay players”.

Gazidis made the prediction whilst speaking at today’s (March 3) The Economist’s Pride and Prejudice LGBT forum, which aims to look at the of issues effecting LGBT people in business.

Panel discussions and presentations at the ground breaking event are taking place over a 24-hour period today.

They began in Hong Kong, followed by London and New York.

Gazidis was interviewed on stage in London this morning by Economist Editor-In-Chief, Zanny Minton Beddoes.

He said that although Arsenal – which has committed to fighting homophobia as part of Stonewall’s rainbow laces campaign – was a comparatively small business in comparison to global corporates, it remains an international brand that believes strongly in promoting its values to a global audience.

“Sport’s such an interesting space. It’s a tremendously competitive environment, and if you close your self off to any section of society, you’re not being competitive,” he added.

“We as a club have a responsibility to make a public statement about what our values are.”

Gazidis said he believes players may be reluctant to come out first, as they do not want to become “trailblazer”.

He said they may also be wary of how rival fans may react – specifically mentioning the often aggressive chanting that takes place during matches.

However, the CEO explained that part of the reason he was so convinced that openly gay players would eventually grace the pitch is because coming out has become a “non-issue” in the dressing room.

“In the dressing room, it’s a non-issue. [The players are] openly supportive of these issues, so you have to wonder why someone hasn’t come out,” he said.

The Pride and Prejudice conference has attracted an impressive line-up of speakers – with the London session due to hear from Inga Beale, Chief executive officer of Lloyds, Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank, human rights activist Omar Sharif Jnr, and Lord Browne of Madingley, among others.